Assuming the peg for this speech is the Gulf disaster, I think the president needs to follow the advice of Bill Maher from his last show of the season Friday night. (see: http://videocafe.crooksandliars.com/node/37689). (The relevant part starts at 2:10 into the video and continues to the end of the 6+ minute segment.)
This has bugged me for a long time. Whenever we want to move forward and take meaningful steps to actually address and fix some of our problems, invariably someone says we can’t because of “jobs.” This is Maher’s point. According to Maher, there are about
$58,000 oil industry jobs in Louisiana. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) says there are 300,000 jobs related to the oil industry. The Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association estimates that “each exploration and production job represents four supporting jobs in and around the region.”
Meanwhile, 46 percent of Gulf Coast jobs are in tourism–http://www.enewspf.com/index.php/opinion/16748-oil-industry-holding-gulf-jobs-hostage, an industry that has taken a beating because of the spill. It would be humming along nicely about this time of year if there were no oil drilling in the Gulf. Don’t those jobs count?
You hear the same argument from lawmakers who pass appropriations bills for defense spending the Pentagon doesn’t want. Congress says we must continue producing planes no one wants because otherwise jobs will be lost.
Moreover, the jobs “related” to the oil industry include caterers who service the oil rigs and many others that are dependent on those oil rig jobs but could service other energy jobs. In other words, they are service related that don’t necessarily need to be servicing oil jobs.
Which brings me back to Maher and the president’s speech. Basically, Maher said, “fuck those jobs.” That was a little inelegant, but he has a point that I wish President Obama would articulate tomorrow night.
We cannot continue to support programs that are destroying our environment as well as other industries such as fishing and tourism in the Gulf Coast just because jobs will be lost. As Maher put it, “Maybe your job needs to go when in it starts killing things.” Or in a more graphic comparison, he notes there are jobs in the kiddie porn industry, but we prosecute offenders even if jobs might be lost.
What we need to do is create jobs in clean energy industries where those displaced oil rig workers can work in the green energy field. I don’t know his source, but Maher says the 58,000 oil industry workers in Louisiana alone would require $5.5 billion to pay them their same salaries in the clean energy field. Can’t their skills, such as they are, be used in clean energy? Isn’t $5.5 billion a drop in the bucket to begin transforming our energy industries?
The president needs to make that case, and not only about the oil industry. The same holds true for mining jobs, aircraft mechanics and other skilled labor jobs that can easily be adapted to new energy industries.
An oil spill of this proportion will not come again soon, but it will come. Obama needs to make the argument that we need to prevent it by moving to green energy and taking the oil industry workers with it. But we can’t save jobs that are hurting the country. He needs to say that upfront. It’s time for leadership, Mr. President.